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The Role of European Political Parties in the Convention on the Future of Europe

The application of the Convention method to the preparatory phase of the process of treaty reform potentially constitutes a major innovation towards a more open, transparent and democratic approach to treaty reform, paving the way to the emergence of unprecedented patterns of bargaining. Among these, party politics should clearly emerge as an explicit source of cleavages. In order to ascertain to what extent this cleavage line is crucial in determining the conventioneers’ behaviour and in shaping the institutional and policy options to be included in the future constitutional treaty, an empirical insight is needed. By empirically assessing the determinants of the conventioneers’ behaviour, the functions that European parties carry out in the Convention and the structural setting framed by the Laeken Declaration and by the rules of procedures, some major conclusions can be drawn from our analysis. We found out that European parties actually do have a role in aggregating preferences and rationalising the collective action of the conventioneers along party lines. Our analysis would suggest that European parties are rather efficient mechanisms in building up an internal consensus on policy proposals and in rationalising the collective action of their membership. Organizational efficiency and brilliant party coordinators play a major role in achieving this result. Their function as legitimacy-makers is restricted because of some structural limits affecting their action, i.e. the lack of a direct link with the citizens, ultimately embedded in the current EU institutional framework. Nevertheless, the hybrid nature of the Convention model, with its complex composition allowing for multiple allegiances, is a serious challenge to parties’ organisational efforts. In order to determine to what extent the emergence of party politics is influenced by structural variables, eventually entrenched in the formal framework designed by the Laeken Declaration and the Convention self-adopted rules of procedure and in the informal working practices enacted within it, we first analysed the ‘safety nets’ system designed by the European Council, hypothesising the existence of a principal-agent model. One of the main features of this scheme would be an incentive to enact consensual dynamics in order to produce a single commonly agreed outcome instead of a set of options and maximise in this way the influence of the Convention. This would in turn structurally affect the possibility for party politics to emerge, since the search for consensus would lead to the externalisation of opposition and to a watering down of political dialectics along Left-Right lines. Nevertheless, from a normative point of view, the implementation of a domestic-like constitutional process, allowing for voting procedures and for the formation of opposed party political blocks, would not have been politically feasible in such a heterogeneous body as the Convention. Hence, the inevitable absence of voting procedures would play a major role as a structural impediment to the formation of majorities aligned along party lines. Finally, by testing the validity of a principal-agent model, we found out that empirical evidence would suggest that working practices deviate the internal dynamics from party political to institutional and national affiliation.

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3 1. INTRODUCTION According to many commentators, the Convention method currently experimented in the EU constitution-building process potentially constitutes a major innovation towards a more open, transparent and democratic way of treaty reform (Philippart, 2002; Hoffmann, 2002; Maurer, 2003; Magnette, 2003; Closa, 2003). The application of the Convention method to the preparatory phase of treaty reform, it is argued, can improve the democratic credentials of the whole process and strengthen its legitimacy vis-à-vis the citizens. If this is the case, we would expect, from a normative point of view, to observe the emergence of new explicit patterns of bargaining, structurally different from the intergovernmental method usually at work in the framework of the IGCs and reflecting those existing in any representative assembly. Nevertheless, taking into consideration the heterogeneous composition of the Convention and its hybrid nature, we would expect, in particular, to observe the emergence of overlapping multiple identities, in accordance with the three affiliation dimensions – national, institutional and party political (cf. Shaw, 2002a: 22) – here represented. This feature of the Convention environment adds in turn to the complexity of its internal dynamics, thus increasing the difficulty to make any strong predictions about the nature of its final outcome. As a consequence of its varied structure, new types of cleavages should emerge, opening up multiple channels of compromise along different lines of affiliation. Among these, party political cleavages should be clearly observable as an explicit pattern of aggregation and confrontation. In order to ascertain to what extent this cleavage line is crucial in determining the conventioneers’ behaviour and in shaping the institutional and policy options to be included in the future constitutional treaty, an empirical insight is needed. The necessity to answer to these normative questions determined the choice of the research instruments and methodology adopted in the present work. We will proceed by first reviewing different theoretical perspectives in order to determine what relevance they assign to European political parties in explaining the process of integration. This will in turn provide us with contrasting hypothesis regarding the very nature of the current constitution-building process and the role played by European parties within it. We will then turn to consider from an empirical point of view what the determinants of the conventioneers’ behaviour are. This analysis will enable us to draw some preliminary conclusions regarding the factors underlying the conventioneers’ behaviour. The descriptive picture sketched from this analysis will be subject to further elaboration in order to determine the root-causes of the behavioural patterns observed and to assess to what extent dependent variables, lying within the sphere of control of political parties, determine their effectiveness within the Convention. These dependent variables will be tested by reviewing how effectively European parties can carry out three different functions: the rationalisation of the collective action of their members, the capacity

Tesi di Master

Autore: Matteo Fumerio Contatta »

Composta da 83 pagine.

 

Questa tesi ha raggiunto 457 click dal 20/03/2004.

 

Consultata integralmente 2 volte.

Disponibile in PDF, la consultazione è esclusivamente in formato digitale.